Category Archives: NC Museum of Life & Science

Simply galling: Cedar-Apple Rust

From the Archives: This is a re-post, but a story I really love to share.

Move over Davy Jones, you aren’t the only one with slimy tentacles. In fact, the orange growth I found in the cedar trees at the NC Museum of Life and Science could have been inspiration for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie’s character.

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I took these photos on May 19, 2010, after a few days of very heavy rain. I was stunned by the intricate design and beauty. The spectacular mass of glistening, glutinous tendrils contrasted sharply in color with the cedar green on that damp morning. But I had no idea what I was looking at. So, I just tried to get some good shots to identify later.

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Greg Dodge, the ranger at the NC Museum of Life and Science answered my email query quite quickly (wow, that’s pretty good alliteration for the letter q). He recognized my photo instantly as a Cedar-Apple Rust gall–a fungal disease. He confirmed my hunch that the recent deluge had coaxed the spectacular tendrils out of the gall that had been quietly developing in the branches of the cedar tree for the past year. Cornell University’s Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic has the best description of the life cycle of Cedar-Apple Rust, but I think I captured some fantastic photos of the telial horns.
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A few days later I went back and looked for the Cedar-Apple Rust galls again. By now, the orange telial horns had mostly disappeared (dropping to the ground), and the gall which had been developing during the previous year in anticipation of its final spectacular spring show was clearly visible.

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Alpaca Love (or, In Which I Have a Crush on a Camelid)

This is a slightly modified cross-post of one of my photo-journals from the NC Life and Science Museum’s Animal Keeper Blog (where I also blog).

Sherry Samuels and I recently visited the Carolina Alpaca Celebration to learn a bit about alpacas. Neither one of us really knew what to expect. We learned about their husbandry, their birthing needs, their food requirements, and just how many things you can make out of alpaca wool. I learned they are part of the camelid family (and yes, they can spit like camels and llamas, although I didn’t see one spit the whole day). But the best thing we learned is that THEY ARE DARN CUTE and THEY TALK TO YOU (well, sort of). In short, we like them. In fact, I even learned how to kiss an alpaca.

Isn't that an adorable face? We were surprised by the size of these camelids. They were smaller than we anticipated.


I told you I learned how to kiss an alpaca. This is "Overture" and he is one friendly alpaca.


This one looks like a hipster alpaca. There are two types of alpacas: Huacaya (wha-ky-a) and Suri. The Huacaya has the dense, fluffy fleece and the Suri has the dreadlocks look going on. Both types of fleece are extremely soft.

As soon as we walked into the building, we were greeted by the most surreal and sweet sound– an alpaca humming. They seem to talk to you, but in a quiet, hum.

What does a bear cave look like?

At the Museum of Life and Science, I sometimes get to go into the bear yard (when the bears are in the bearhouse). After scooping LOTS of bear poo, I explored the bear cave in the cliff where the bears like to sleep. Here’s what they see, and what it looks like inside their snug hideout.

Me, snuggled up in the back of the cave. The bears take up more room than me! I had to be careful because they had left LOTS of bear poo in there near the sides of the entrance.

View from inside the bear cave, looking out to the rest of the exhibit. See the bearhouse in the distance?

Gordon the Crested Gecko

One of the perks of working with the Life and Science Museum Animal Department is getting to handle so many animals. I absolutely adore this little crested gecko. He dropped his tail this year (after an injury at the base of the tail) and we’ve all been watching it regrow a bit. Crested geckos who drop their tails do not fully regrow them (as some other lizards do). However, his little stump has definitely elongated. Alas, no matter how much it regrows, he will not regain the pad of lamellae that he had on the flattened tip of his prehensile tail. I plan to start to take weekly photos of the regrowth and do a timelapse of it at some point. In the meantime, I’m intrigued by his feet and eyes. I still need to bring in a tripod and do a proper photo shoot, but here’s some of his cuteness (on my finger!)